- Czech Republic
That makes 12 countries we’ve hit so far since landing here. Since there are approximately 50 self governing political entities in Europe, our journeys cover barely the tip of the iceberg. (Historical note – we are only counting places we have all seen together as a family. André and I have also been to Spain, Sicily and the Vatican City on our honeymoon) Even if we only count Western Europe there are 26 nations! We hope to add Monaco to our list on our upcoming journey – and maybe Spain before we head home, but that doesn’t even put us at 50%. So, we were going to Austria and noticed that Liechtenstein was practically on our way to Austria. In fact, driving through Liechtenstein would only add about 15 minutes to our 8 hour drive.
You may think it is shallow to do a detour through Liechtenstein in order to make it country #13 on our list. I would agree. But is shallow always a negative thing? Lonely Planet thinks so… “if you’re visiting this pocket-sized principality solely for the cocktail-party bragging rights, keep the operation covert.”
Covert operation…. This is not usually the word choice we use for vacationing – and not likely when traveling with 3 small kids. My first reaction would be to say that covertness is not their strength. But then I considered their skill in sneaking candy, lying so they don’t get in trouble, pretending to cry to elicit sympathy, and manipulating us to get what they want and I realized that the CIA and FBI probably need a few good kids.
It was around 9pm when we got to Liechtenstein and, even though we got out and looked around, we were still out of the country by about 9:20pm. We drove through a small town and saw the local church – Feldkirch (photo right). Too bad it was dark – hard to tell much! Now you will be treated to some random information about Liechtenstein. It is the 6th smallest country in the world and is smaller, in area, than the island of Manhattan. They may be small but they have 100% literacy rate and the highest GDP per person of any country in the world. They lead the world in denture manufacture and are the only German speaking country that doesn’t share a border with Germany. They are also still run by a royal family – the Prince of the land has the power to veto laws, propose legislation, call referendums and even, if he wishes, dissolve parliament. These rights were approved by the majority of the population by referendum as recently as 2003. The royal family is very popular and well loved. So there really are places that still have powerful princes (for some reason the ruler of this country is only called prince – never king). The family has been in power in Liechtenstein since 1544 and the current prince has a son and grandson all lined up. They have no military whatsoever and are officially neutral in all conflicts. In fact there are only 85 police officers in the entire country and they are pretty safe – the last murder in Liechtenstein happened over 10 years ago. It is also a great area for winter sports and has won more Olympic gold medals per capita (all in skiing) than any other nation. Generally seems like a pretty great place to live and you can see me at left enjoying my Liechtensteinian experience to the fullest. Do I look covert?
PS. Liechtenstein (the country) is NOT the same as Lichtenstein (the famous pop artist – most popular in the 60’s through 90’s – an example of work at right)!